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LSU Law Center Announces 2018 Distinguished Alumna/us of the Year and Distinguished Achievement Honorees

A graphic with the headshot photos of four men and two womenThe LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center has selected Chief Justice Bernette Joshua Johnson and Judge John deGravelles as the 2018 Distinguished Alumna/us of the Year.  Jane Politz Brandt, James A. Brown, Thomas M. Hayes III, and Harry J. “Skip” Philips, Jr. have been named the Distinguished Achievement honorees.

The six LSU Law alumni will be honored at a ceremony on Friday, March 2, at the Loews Hotel in New Orleans.

LSU Law Center’s Distinguished Alumna/us Award is given annually to alumni for rare distinction in professional achievement and loyalty to the LSU Law Center. The Distinguished Achievement awards recognize graduates for professional achievement and career distinction, service to and support of LSU Law, and service to the community.


Chief Justice Bernette Joshua Johnson was one of the first African-American women to attend the Paul M. Hebert Law Center at Louisiana State University, where she received her Juris Doctorate degree in 1969.

Johnson’s judicial career began in 1984 when she was the first woman elected to serve on the Civil District Court of New Orleans. Thereafter, in 1994, her colleagues elected her Chief Judge. Later in 1994, she was elected to serve on the Louisiana Supreme Court.  As the senior justice on the Court, she was sworn in as Chief Justice on Feb. 1, 2013. She is the Court’s 25th Chief Justice, its second female Chief Justice, and its first African-American Chief Justice.

In October 2013, Johnson received the prestigious Joan Dempsey Klein Award by the National Association of Women Judges (NAWJ) during the organization’s 35th annual conference. As the 2013 recipient, Johnson joined a distinguished list of Joan Dempsey Klein Award recipients that include U.S. Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor (1982), Ruth Bader Ginsburg (2003), and Sonia Sotomayor (2009).

Johnson was inducted into the LSU Law Center’s Hall of Fame in 1996 and was also named as an Honorary Inductee into the LSU Order of the Coif. In 2004, she delivered the John H. Tucker, Jr., Lecture in Civil Law at the Law Center. She has served as the Louisiana Supreme Court’s appointee to the Louisiana Law Institute, housed at LSU Law.

Johnson is frequently asked to address legal, academic, and community groups throughout the State of Louisiana, nationally and internationally. On April 9, 2013, Johnson delivered the State of the Judiciary Address before the Louisiana Legislature. In May 2013, she delivered the Commencement Address at LSU Law School. Also in 2013, Johnson received the Martin Luther King Unsung Hero Award presented by LSU.

Judge John deGravelles is a 1974 graduate of the LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center and also received his undergraduate degree from LSU in 1971.  At the Law Center John graduated as a member of the Order of the Coif and as a winner of LSU’s Flory Trial Competition.
He also served on the Law School’s Moot Court Board.  He was nominated by President Barack Obama in March 2014 to a seat on the U.S. District Court, Middle District of Louisiana and confirmed by the Senate in July of the same year and is currently serving in that capacity.

DeGravelles was in private practice from 1974-2014 and was a founding partner in the Baton Rouge firm of deGravelles, Palmintier, Holthaus and Fruge’.  He has served as the Louisiana President of the American Board of Trial Advocates, President of the Louisiana Association of Justice and as a member of the Board of Governors for the American Association of Justice.  He was also a Fellow in the International Academy of Trial Lawyers.  Over his career he has earned many honors including being named as one of the Top Ten Lawyers of Louisiana by Law and Politics Magazine and being chosen as a Louisiana Super Lawyer in Personal Injury and Litigation by Law and Politics among many other honors.

DeGravelles has been an adjunct professor at the Law Center since 1994.  He has taught Maritime Law at the Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, Greece, and in 2001 was awarded a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to teach the subject at the Aristotle University.

Both his children and father are graduates of the LSU Law Center.  He has been a guest speaker for many classes at the LSU Law Center; a perennial member of the Chancellor’s Council since its inception and served as the President of the LSU Law Center National Alumni Board some years ago.


Jane Politz Brandt graduated with honors from LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center in 1986. She was on Louisiana Law Review, Delta Theta Phi, Phi Kappa Phi scholastic honorary fraternity and Order of the Coif.

Brandt recently retired from the practice of law.  In her legal career, she represented national and international clients in intellectual property disputes before federal trial and appellate courts, the International Trade Commission, and before arbitration panels. Brandt’s intellectual property practice included patent validity and infringement, licensing, unfair competition, trademark and copyright, and trade secret disputes.

Brandt was also Chair of the Firm’s Information Management and E-Discovery Solutions Practice Group. She assisted clients in establishing effective information management and document retention policies and complying with discovery obligations.

In addition to her intellectual property practice, Brandt focused on legal issues impacting the art industry. According to clients quoted in IAM Patent 1000 2015, Brandt is “extremely responsive,” “great on both offensive and defensive patent assignments,” and “knows the Federal Circuit inside and out.” She is an active member of the arts community in Dallas.

Brandt was a member of the Forever LSU Steering Committee for the Dallas Area, 2007-2008 and the Steering Committee for naming of Professor Frank Maraist Lecture Hall 2015-2016.

2018 LSU Law Center Distinguished Alumna/us of the Year and Distinguished Achievement Awards

Friday, March 2, 2018
6:15 p.m. — Sponsors Reception with Honorees
7:00 p.m. — Dinner and Ceremony

Loews Hotel
Louisiana Ballroom
300 Poydras St.
New Orleans

For ticket information: call 225-578-8343 or email

James A. Brown is a 1984 graduate of the Paul M. Hebert LSU Law Center and holds an undergraduate degree from LSU in Political Science.  He is a Partner in the Law Firm Liskow & Lewis in their New Orleans office.

Brown heads the firm’s Commercial Litigation Section as well as its Professional Liability Practice Group. He is a former member of the firm’s Board of Directors and serves as the firm’s Loss Prevention Partner. His practice focuses on complex litigation, including banking and contract disputes, professional liability litigation, legal malpractice defense, antitrust litigation, trusts and estates litigation, First Amendment litigation, and Education law.

Brown is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. He is listed by Chambers USA – America’s Leading Lawyers for Business as among America’s top commercial litigators. Brown also is named in Best Lawyers in America in the fields of Bet-the-Company Litigation, Commercial Litigation, Legal Malpractice Law, Litigation – Antitrust, Litigation – Trusts and Estates, and Professional Malpractice Law. He is listed among Top Lawyers by New Orleans Magazine. New Orleans CityBusiness named him one of New Orleans’ “Leaders in Law.”

Following law school, Brown served as law clerk to the Honorable Alvin B. Rubin, Circuit Judge, United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, 1984-85. Since 1992, he has served as an Adjunct Professor in Torts and Trial Advocacy at the Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert Law Center.

Brown serves on the New Orleans Ethics Review Board by appointment of the Mayor. The Board administers and enforces the New Orleans Code of Governmental Ethics and appoints and oversees the New Orleans Inspector General.

He is a supporter of the Law Center in various ways including serving as a member of the Dean’s Council and as an adjunct professor.

Thomas M. Hayes, III is a partner in the firm of Hayes, Harkey, Smith & Cascio, LLP, in Monroe, Louisiana. He is a 1977 graduate of LSU Paul M. Hebert Law School. He was trained as a mediator at the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine School of Law. He is AV rated by Martindale Hubbell, is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, and a Council Member of the Louisiana State Law Institute, where he also serves as a member of the Committee on Louisiana Civil Procedure.

Hayes has served as Special Master by appointment in the Fourth and Eighth Judicial Districts. From 2007 through 2015, he has been designated a Louisiana SuperLawyer in civil litigation.

Hayes was a member of the Board of Governors of the LSBA from 1991 to 1993, and from 2012 to 2015. He is past president of the Fourth Judicial District Bar Association and the Fred Fudickar Inn of Court. He is a member of the Defense Research Institute and several specialty bar associations, including the Federation of Insurance and Corporate Counsel, the Association of Insurance Attorneys, the Louisiana Association of Defense Counsel. He is also a Fellow of the Litigation Counsel of America.

In 2014, he was Chairman of the Chancellor’s Council of the Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert Law Center. He is also a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and a Fellow of the Louisiana Bar Foundation.

Harry J. “Skip” Philips, Jr. serves as Taylor Porter’s Managing Partner and is a member of the Firm’s Executive Committee.  His primary practice areas include state and federal civil trial and appellate litigation, including banking, commercial, insurance, personal injury, insurance coverage, and products liability cases.  His practice also includes corporate law, in which he serves as counsel to non-profit organizations.

Philips received his Juris Doctor from LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center in 1983, where he was the editor-in-chief of the Louisiana Law Review and elected to Order of the Coif. He received a bachelor of science from LSU in 1972, where he was a distinguished military graduate in the Army ROTC program. He is admitted to practice in all Louisiana state courts, the three federal district courts in Louisiana, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court of the United States. Philips is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, and he is a fellow of Litigation Counsel of America, an invitation-only trial lawyer honorary society limited to 4,000 Fellows, representing less than one-half of one percent of American lawyers.

Philips is an adjunct professor at LSU Law, where he teaches courses on Professional Responsibility, Law and Medicine, and Insurance Law.  He is a frequent lecturer on ethics, professionalism and litigation skills. He is a member of the Council of the Louisiana Law Institute and is a member of the Alumni Board of Trustees of the LSU Law Center.

Prior to attending law school, Philips was an investigator in the public corruption section of the Criminal Division of the Louisiana Attorney General’s office. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy.

Philips is a retired major general in the U.S. Army Reserve.  He was last assigned as Commanding General, 377th Theater Sustainment Command, New Orleans, Louisiana, where he commanded more than 30,000 Army Reserve soldiers in the United States.  He is the Army Reserve Ambassador for Louisiana.

For ticket information, contact Christine Briede at 225-578-8343 or